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Ruth’s Place may have permanent home, but funding cuts threaten its operations

Kristen Topolski and Bill Bolan of Ruth’s Place women’s homeless shelter say funding cuts are a threat to the center.

Clark Van Orden/The Times Leader

WILKES-BARRE – The only emergency shelter for single women in Northeastern Pennsylvania is facing devastating funding cuts and is in dire need of community support.

Ruth’s Place: House of Hope Inc., has come a long way since it was started by the Rev. Keith Benjamin and his wife, Julie, in the basement of First United Methodist Church in 2003. Then, it was run entirely by volunteers and housed up to 30 homeless women per night through the winter months, board President Bill Bolan said at a press conference Thursday.

After the church closed in 2008, the shelter moved to temporary locations until finding a permanent home in July 2009 at its current location in Wilkes-Barre’s North End, Bolan said.

Shelter Director Kristen Topolski said the shelter now can house up to 20 women per night and provides case management services, many of them in-house, to find housing, obtain employment, access drug, alcohol or mental health services if needed, and learn basic life skills such as budgeting and healthy living.

“We’ve had tremendous success,” Topolski said. “Last year alone, we housed 102 women and found them permanent housing. They just need some guidance and support to point them in the right direction.”

Bolan said Ruth’s Place has had tremendous support from community organizations, local and county government and the public. Still, a 30 percent cut in the federal Emergency Food and Shelter program and less funding from the state Emergency Shelter Grant program are threatening shelter operations, he said.

Bolan invited the public not only to consider donating money or household and food items to the shelter, but to also to sign up for and participate in the fourth annual walk-a-thon – “A Mile in her Shoes” – beginning at 1 p.m. Nov. 13 on Public Square in Wilkes-Barre to raise awareness for the shelter.

Participants walk a two-mile loop past many of the social service agencies that homeless men and women have to visit regularly in order to survive.

HOW TO HELP

Donations to Ruth’s Place can be mailed to P.O. Box 254, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18703 or made online at www.ruthsplace.com. For more information, call 822-6817.

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